I absolutely adore Michelle Moran’s books, so I was very excited to pick up her latest work, Rebel Queen. It is set in India, in the kingdom of Jhansi, which is in the north, about half-way between Nepal and Pakistan. The book features the reign of Rani Lakshmibai, who was Rani (Queen) of Jhansi when the British were starting their full on invasion of India. I definitely learned some things about that pocket of history that are not very nice. Most of my view of Indian history has been through the lens of Europeans, but it was nice knowing that Michelle is writing the book from a different view. She married an Indian man and spent considerable time there researching for Rebel Queen, so at least there’s hopefully more balance in the perspective.
The story is told by Sita, one of the Durgavasi, which are the Queen’s personal guards. For some fun info: http://www.badassoftheweek.com/rani.html
I enjoyed reading the book, but I found that I didn’t get attached to many of the characters. Several characters die through the book, but it didn’t really bother me, I didn’t feel like I knew the characters and sometimes I would completely forget who someone was between their first mention and the next. Michelle describes Sita as the Rani’s closest companion, but I’m not sure why she was, the book doesn’t show me a truly deep relationship between them. It probably doesn’t help that Lakshmibai is hardly ever called by name, even her guards call her the rani in their thoughts. Even in the last moments where some sort of familiarity and comfort would have been appropriate, she is still only called Rani. The one character I would have cared about dying sort of rides off alone and while we know she dies, it’s not really discussed since Sita doesn’t see it.
The one relationship I did connect with is Sita and her sister, Anu. Some not very nice things occur there, but it actually made me care and I felt worse for Anu than any of the characters who meet equally unfortunate fates.
It was a nice read, but I don’t think it was her best work. Still, I look forward to her next books.
Here’s a list of her complete works, I recommend them all :) http://www.michellemoran.com/books/index.html
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